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WOERRC Research Seminar: Collective Action in the Online Gig Economy: The S...

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Sheffield University Management School

Conduit Road

Sheffield

S10 1FL

United Kingdom

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Description

This research seminar is hosted by the Work Organisation and Employment Relations Research Centre (WOERRC) part of the division of Work, Employment, People and Organisation (WEPO) at Sheffield University Management School


Speaker

Alex J Wood is a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, UK. His research focuses on the changing nature of labour relations and labour markets. He is currently researching how online gig work is transforming labour relations. His previous research focused on the changing nature of flexible and insecure forms of work such as zero-hours contracts in the UK and USA. He also has a long-standing interest in the relationships between industrial relations, union renewal and emerging forms of workplace representation and patterns of inequality and class. His research has appeared in Work, Employment and Society, Human Relations and Industrial Relations Journal. He is currently working on two books: Digital Work at Global Margins: Online Freelancing and the Future of Outsourcing.for MIT Press and Powerful Times: The New Flexible Despotism at Work for Cornell University Press


Abstract

Recent estimates suggest that around 1.6 million people in the UK regularly earn income from the gig economy (CIPD, 2017; Huws et al., 2016). Although this represents a relatively small number of all those in paid work, evidence suggests that this number is growing. The gig economy refers to ‘people using apps [also known as platforms] to sell their labour’ (Taylor et al. 2017: 23). It has been proposed that within the next decade, online platforms will mediate one in three labour transactions (Standing, 2015). The largest component of the gig economy is, what we refer to as, online or remote gig work (CIPD, 2017; Huws et al., 2016). A wide variety of digital services, ranging from data entry to software programming, can now be undertaken via online labour platforms. This segment of the gig economy is growing at an annual rate of 25% (Kassi and Lehdonvirta, 2016). In fact, globally 48 million workers are already estimated to have registered with such platforms (Kuek et al., 2015).

This paper investigates what remote gig work means for collective organisation and action at work. What is the future of industrial relations when platforms enable a myriad of global clients to connect with self-employed contractors dispersed across the world and working from their homes? Interviews with around 80 UK, US and Filipino workers and activists and observation of a dozen freelancer community events in London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Manila are used to explore the novel forms of collective organisation and action which are emerging in the gig economy. These findings require us to rethink industrial relations, which developed as a field of study for 20th century phenomena. Industrial relations must be supplanted by the study of labour relations. Doing so would enable researchers to embrace the non-dyadic nature of contemporary work relations and recognise the increasing importance of third parties. Meanwhile the growth of digital communication means that the study of worker organisation can not be limited to only traditional trade unions. It is also necessary to be attentive to emerging forms of looser and less formal worker organisation and attempt to discover new repertories of collective action.


Location

Hitchcock Boardroom, Level D, Sheffield University Management School


Programme

  • 16.30 - 17.00 Refreshments
  • 17.00 - 18.00 Seminar with Q&A


Date and Time

Location

Sheffield University Management School

Conduit Road

Sheffield

S10 1FL

United Kingdom

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